With all of its different variations, the men’s shirt is without a doubt the most versatile article of dress there is.
But with so many endless options out there, which types of shirts should you stock your wardrobe with to ensure you have all bases stylishly covered? These are the 11 essential shirt styles for men that you’ll want to have on hand for all occasions, both casual and formal.
1. Oxford Button-Down Shirt
Sharing its name with the Oxford cloth from which it’s cut, the Oxford shirt is a menswear classic that’s been serving as the bedrock of many a stylish outfit for well over 120 years. The fabric is quite thick compared to most others in shirting, giving it a casual edge. A button-down collar and hanger loop to the back of the yoke are common design traits.
If ever there was a true, essential type of shirt for men, the Oxford button-down shirt is it. This timeless piece serves as a sartorial building block that works for a range of dress codes, making it one of the most versatile pieces in any wardrobe.
“I like a button-down worn open collar with jeans, corduroys, or chinos but not with a suit, as I think the casual style clashes with the formality of the tailoring,” says master shirtmaker Emma Willis. “A button-down collar shirt looks perfect in a mid-blue Oxford cotton with a button cuff made famous by Brooks Brothers but now in more tailored fits.”
2. Dress Shirt
3. Cuban Collar Shirt
What better way to appease your inner hairy-chested Colombian drug lord than by soaking up some sun in his favorite type of shirt? This breezy summer staple has always looked good, and thanks to the current fifties-fashion revival, it’s right on trend at the moment too.
“The golden rule, as ever with short sleeves is to make them fit to the arm – baggy sleeves make arms look skinnier and skinny arms make a chest look smaller – not great.”
You’ll be able to find these casual shirts in a huge range of colors and patterns. Don’t be afraid to be bold with your cuban collar shirt choice, but stay away from anything that looks like something your uncle would wear to the casino.
Styling-wise, simplicity is the key with this type of shirt. “A dark blue overshirt with a white T-shirt works great,” adds Johnson. “But a shabby overshirt and a detailed shirt looks like a sloppy teenagers get up.” Team it up with some raw denim and a pair of lace-up work boots and you’re good to go.
5. Flannel Shirt
6. Office Shirt
It’s a horrible term, but the advent of business casual dress codes has meant that you can probably clock into your workplace in a much broader range of clothing than your father ever dared to. We think that’s a good thing, but there’s still room for wardrobe workhorses like the classic work shirt, especially if your boss still expects you to wear a tie.
Out of all the different types of shirts for men, the work shirt is one you’ll likely get the most wear out of.
“There is nothing like the smooth, formal appearance of good quality two-fold poplin cotton for an everyday work shirt,” says Willis. “Textures such as twills, oxfords, and herringbones are perfect for a more casual shirt giving interest without a tie, but for that immaculate, clean, no-nonsense business look a plain white or palest blue gleaming with quality poplin shirt and tie cannot be beaten.”
Look for a breathable poplin weave for stuffy days handcuffed to your inbox, and choose between a pointed or cutaway collar, depending on how much you want people to notice your tie. Some retailers will offer stretchy and anti-wrinkle fabrics, too.
Light blues and pinks are solid team members but for its versatility, a white button up shirt will go home with the employee of the month award.
7. Chambray Shirt
No, it’s not denim. Chambray uses a plain weave in its construction, which results in a lighter fabric than the twill weave used for its jean-making cousin. This makes a chambray shirt a great option if you like the look of denim but find it a bit too much.
This type of shirt looks fantastic with almost everything too, making it nothing short of a style staple and something that every bloke should have at least one hanging in his wardrobe.
8. Classic Short Sleeve Shirt
It wasn’t so long ago that the the short sleeve shirt was a style crime reserved for delivery drivers, bible salesmen, and scary men in nightclubs with pupils the size of coffee cups. Fortunately, designers have reclaimed the basic t-shirt style for its versatility and warm-weather practicality.
In recent years, the perfect t-shirt has become a vehicle for broader summer trends, from tropical prints and geometric patterns to pastel colors and vertical stripes. Whatever your preferred mode of turning heads, a basic t-shirt works with most summer legwear from shorts and chinos to lighter denim and linen trousers.
Wear casually, usually without tucking it in. The perfect t-shirt will have sleeve ends no higher than mid-bicep and be sure to never wear it with a suit.
9. Polo Shirt
A step up from the basic t-shirt, solid color polo shirts are a must-have for both casual wear and more dressed up occasions. Who knew a simple collar could make a world of difference?
With dozens of well revered names to choose from, the polo shirt has been perfected over decades by the likes of Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and other classic players in the men’s fashion game.
Polos work well on a variety of body shapes and come in a huge range of colors. As far as men’s casual shirts go, this is one you don’t want to skip out on.
10. Denim Shirt
Don’t be too quick to write the denim shirt off as a fashion faux pas. Worn right, this classic workwear item can give your outfit an added dose of masculinity and lend a casual edge when worn with an unstructured blazer, or even a full suit if you’re feeling brave.
The fashion police seem to have an eternal arrest warrant out for double denim too, which is one thing that might put a lot of men off wearing these types of shirts. However, if you’re clever about it, embracing the Canadian tuxedo can offer a way to inject some texture into your wardrobe.
11. Linen Shirt
Is there anything worse than being crammed into a train carriage on a summer commute with some bloke’s soaking wet armpit so close to your face that you can almost taste the salt? Probably not. Don’t be that guy and swap out your Oxfords for linens when the mercury begins to rise.
There are different types of shirts for summer, but linen is the breezy answer to all of your warm-weather woes. It’s light, it’s airy and it gives you the chance to experiment with some pastel shades that you may not ordinarily go for.
“Nothing says summer like a linen shirt,” says Gilfillan. “Airy and breathable, I love a linen shirt with jeans or chinos, or you can roll up the sleeves and wear casually with shorts. I feel like you can be braver with color in a linen shirt too, though a white or pale blue is always a classic to have in your wardrobe.”
How to Get the Perfect Shirt Fit
Your shirt could be spun from the hair of angels and hand-stitched in the Tuscan hills by God Himself but, sadly, if it doesn’t fit like a glove, you’re still not going to look the part.
This is why it’s so crucial to nail your sizing and stick to it religiously, no matter what type of shirt you’re wearing. With that in mind, we asked renowned men’s personal stylist Daniel Johnson for his tips on how men’s shirts should fit in all the most important places.
A gaping collar is a dead giveaway that a man’s shirt is too big. Likewise, if your face is turning purple and you’re having difficulty swallowing, you might want to consider a size or two up.
“Pay attention to the neck of your shirt,” says Johnson. “Usually a finger-width of space when fully fastened will be just right.”
Fashion may have experimented with overlength sleeves, but if you’re walking anywhere other than a runway, you’d be well-advised not to do the same. For the perfect fit, your sleeves should end where your wrist meets your hand but with enough excess fabric to prevent them from riding up every time you move your arms.
But it’s not all about length – ahem – girth is important too. “Keep them slim,” says Johnson. “You need to see some daylight between the sleeve and the body.”
So, you’re not blessed with the torso of a Greek god. Don’t worry, because a well-fitted shirt can create the illusion of a more masculine frame even if you’re built more like Ariana Grande than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“To make the shoulders appear as wide as possible there’s one trick,” says Johnson. “Where the sleeve of the shirt is joined to the body is the key. It should sit on the ‘humeral head’, in other words, the widest point of the shoulder.”
Nothing ruins the look of a shirt quite like straining buttons, struggling to contain what lies beneath.
“Ensure your shirt isn’t too tight around the chest,” says Johnson. “I see it all too often that the shirt is tightly fitted around this area, restricting movement and looking unsightly when it pulls.” Ultimately, the chest area should feel comfortable, while also granting you a full range of motion in the arms and upper body.
Length is one of the most common things guys get wrong when it comes to shirting. Yes, we’re fully aware of the whole longline thing but it will pass eventually, trust us. And if you want to come out the other end of it with your style credentials left unscathed, there are just two shirt lengths you need to keep in mind.
“Casual shirts are designed to be left untucked, says Johnson. “For this reason, the fabric should reach roughly halfway down the backside. Formal men’s shirts, on the other hand, should reach to the bottom of the backside to avoid coming untucked.”